Our Workplace

We have a longstanding reputation for being a good employer and providing our people with a decent workplace and inclusive environment.

We fully support Principle 6 of the UN Global Compact, to eliminate discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. Our diversity and inclusion policy sets out our commitment to promote diversity and inclusion, prevent discrimination and provide a supportive and inclusive working environment. This applies to our recruitment and selection practices, terms and conditions of employment including pay and benefits, promotion, training, transfer, disciplinary and grievance procedures, termination of employment and every other aspect of interaction while at work. Everyone, including contractors and anyone who works on site, prospective recruits and visitors will be treated fairly and with dignity and respect.

A huge amount of work goes into providing a supportive environment for our people and we are proud to be recognised in the Times Top 50 Employers for Women list 2013, to feature in Working Families’ Top 30 Employers for working families in 2012 and to be ranked 9th in Stonewall’s 2013 Workplace Equality Index.

Commitments

We are committed to making the firm, and particularly the partnership, more accessible to people regardless of their background or circumstances.

Improving the firm’s gender balance continues to be a priority and ensuring that women are proportionately represented at all levels of the firm, particularly in partner roles. We also believe that we must develop greater flexibility in our working practices and ensure our people have greater control over where and when they work.

We are committed to ensuring that the annual performance management cycle and promotion process has no bias. Extending the support and services of our staff network groups to individuals in all our offices will also ensure that everyone has access to peer support from individuals who share similar interests.

We are proud supporters of Opportunity Now and Race for Opportunity, Stonewall, Working Families, the Business Disability Forum and the Timewise Foundation.

Actions

Inclusive policies and practices

We have continued to ensure that our policies and working practices promote diversity and inclusivity. In the UK, over the last 12 months, all family friendly policies (such as adoption, maternity, paternity and dependant leave) have been updated to ensure that language used in each policy reflects the diverse range of family and caring circumstances of our staff. Also over the last 12 months, our Hong Kong office launched a flexible working policy for China.

We recognise the important role that our people have in helping to shape the focus and direction of the firm. We continue to communicate with our people on key changes and developments affecting our business, through channels such as our Works Council in Amsterdam and our Employee Discussion Groups in London.


Flexible working

Flexibility in how and where we work has continued to be a priority issue for both our clients and our people. We have looked for greater ways in which we can support and actively promote flexible working. For example, in Asia, we formally launched a flexible working policy in July 2012 and to have promoted case studies of staff adopting flexible arrangements via our intranet. Significant cultural change is starting to happen across the firm and, in London, over 50% of our people are now working from home (either on a formal or informal arrangement, regularly or just occasionally). 



Gender balance

We still have a long way to go before we see true gender balance at senior levels, but we are making progress towards this goal. Four of our Board members are female and approximately one third of our firmwide partner appointments (internal promotions and lateral hires) in 2012/13 were women. 48% of our associate hires were female and we are continuing to see talented women promoted from within the firm.

Progress is slow. However, given our starting point and the limited number of senior female lawyers in the market, we expect progress to be slow. Our key goal is to develop junior women into senior roles which unfortunately takes time.

Nevertheless, we have continued to embed gender balance into our every day practices and to consult with our employees to better understand their views on how we can improve our position. We have consulted with all our staff in London, Asia and Germany via an anonymous gender balance survey and we have held focus groups for our male and female associates in London. These focus group meetings, led by partners Alyson Lockett and Anna Rentoul, have led to each practice group devising and owning their own specific gender balance action plans.

We are very pleased to have been recognised in the Times Top 50 Employers for Women 2013 and in Working Families Top 30 Employers list for 2012.

Jeremy Hoyland quote image


Stonewall Top 100 Employers 2013 logoStonewall Top Employer for LGB People

Simmons & Simmons was ranked ninth in Stonewall’s annual Top 100 Employers 2013 in the UK. In addition to the high profile accolade of being ranked as a top employer, it is also the fifth year that we have been named as the top law firm.

Stonewall – a charity that works to achieve equality and justice for lesbians, gay men and bisexual people – produces the annual Workplace Equality Index to showcase Britain’s top employers for lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB)-friendly employees. We are pleased to retain our long-standing commitment to the Stonewall charity, their values and the work that they do.

Stonewall also marked the efforts of our LGBT network by presenting an additional accolade this year of Star Performer Network Group, which recognises the network groups that make a significant contribution to workplace culture.

“Congratulations to Simmons & Simmons for securing a position in the Top 10 of this year’s highly competitive Top 100 Employers list. Simmons & Simmons have been members of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme since 2005 and have been the top performing law firm for five years running. These results demonstrate Simmons & Simmons’ commitment to sexual orientation equality and in ensuring that all lesbian, gay and bisexual employees can bring their whole selves to work”. Chris Edwards, Stonewall

A safe working environment

We continue to prioritise our health and safety processes and management systems to ensure that we protect the health and safety of our people and that our workplaces are as safe as possible. Health and safety is not just about minimising the risk of accidents; it is also about proactively protecting and supporting our employees’ physical and mental wellbeing. From induction, we provide our employees with information and confidential helpline support so that, together with their families, they can make the right choices to stay healthy and well. This year we have reviewed our employee handbook and health and safety policies to ensure this message is consistently communicated. We have also liaised with our health and wellbeing service providers to ensure that the language they use in their communications to our staff is consistent with our commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Whistleblowing

We have continued to provide partners and employees of the firm with a whistleblowing hotline service. We have updated our intranet so that the information is more accessible and easily located. We also make reference to the whistleblowing hotline service in both our Risk Management and Human Resources sections of the intranet pages.

Staff Networks

The Number One Club (Women’s Network)

In the last year The Number One Club (TNOC) has put together an exciting programme of events under it’s ‘Plus One’ programme, including events at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Affordable Art Fair and the Crafts Council showcase exhibition. The ‘Plus One’ programme is a new initiative under which individuals at the firm are encouraged to invite a female client to attend an event with them. TNOC has also put together a programme of events targeted specifically at associates and trainees, to provide a forum in which female members of the firm can network with each other and share ideas.

Stonewall Star Performer Network Group 2013 logo

LGBT Network

The last year has been a very successful one for the LGBT Network. Due to the hard work of both the Network and friends of the Network, the firm climbed to ninth place in Stonewall’s annual Workplace Equality Index (its highest ever position), and was once again the highest placed law firm in the Index. The last year has also seen an increase in community engagement from members of the LGBT Network and we were delighted to introduce Schools OUT, an organisation which aims to bring equality in education to LGBT teachers and students, as a pro bono client to the firm. In addition to the pro-bono legal work, members of the Network volunteered with School’s OUT during its annual LGBT History Month pre-launch, and during LGBT History Month itself, Sue Sanders, co-founder of School’s OUT visited the firm and gave a presentation on both School’s OUT and LGBT History Month to which all staff were invited. For the first time, the firm entered a team to participate in Stonewall’s annual Equality Walk in Brighton and funds were raised for Stonewall’s anti-bullying in schools campaign. The last year has also seen the LGBT Network together with the Graduate Recruitment team host the firm’s first ever graduate recruitment event aimed specifically at LGBT students. The event was very well attended from students across the UK and they were given the opportunity to network with both members of the firm and LGBTcontacts from clients.

Equality Walk

LGBT Network members at the Stonewall Equality Walk in Brighton, May 2013


Straight Allies

We have continued to grow our Straight Allies Programme this year resulting in an increase in the number of Straight Allies in fee earning and business services roles across the London office. We invited Sarah Odell, Senior Manager at Accenture to talk to our partner’s about their Straight Allies programme and to share best practice on how to raise the profile of Straight Allies whose role is to serve as ambassadors and mentors for LGBT issues.

Christians in Simmons

The Christian Network (Christians in Simmons or CinS) continues to exist to bring Christians within the firm together and to help colleagues to understand the Christian gospel.

In the last 12 months, the Network has continued to meet regularly to study the Bible together, to pray for one another as well as for the firm. The Network has also organised a ‘Christianity Explored’ course for colleagues at Simmons & Simmons and other local firms to investigate Jesus’ claims by looking at one of the Biblical accounts of his life. The course sought to answer three questions: who is Jesus, why did he come and what does it mean to follow him? A number of people found this to be a helpful introduction to the Christian faith. A small group also continues to meet once a week to study Mark’s gospel together.

The Christian Network also continues to organise the firm’s annual carol service and the 2012 service saw a record turn out with many colleagues taking the short stroll down to St Margaret, Lothbury to sing carols, listen to the Simmons & Simmons choir and hear the Christmas story read and explained. We remain grateful to Rev. Jeremy Crossley for his partnership in this annual event.

The Jewish Network

This year the Jewish Network has continued to organise social events, for Network members and friends of the Network, to celebrate the major religious festivals in the Jewish calendar. 

International Islamic Community

The Simmons & Simmons Islamic Network hosts catch up and networking meetings for its members throughout the year and an annual Eid dinner for staff and alumni of the firm. Following a number of queries about the Hajj ceremony, the Network hosted a photo exhibition in staff reception in November 2012 during CR Fortnight. The Network plays an active business development role in promoting the firms Dubai based Islamic Finance practice thorough regular events and contact with clients.

SandS

The SandS Club sponsors a wide range of sporting and social activities for our employees including quarterly soirees in our staff restaurant, 5-a-side football, mixed and ladies netball, softball, Rugby 7s and tag rugby, cricket, theatre trips and an annual staff golf day. Every event and team is open to employees at all levels and we also encourage our future trainees who are studying for their LPC or MBA to participate. This enables them to start to build strong, effective relationships and helps them to integrate into the firm before they start their training contracts. One of the aims of SandS is to use sporting activities to support the health and wellbeing of our employees and as such all activities are publicised on the intranet, highlighted to new joiners and promoted at our quarterly soirees. In 2012 we invited our SandS teams and external representatives from local gyms and health clubs to a sport themed soiree to promote the benefits of sporting activities and team networking.

Noticed logoNOTICED

We are proud to be one of eight founding firms of NOTICED, an interfirm initiative aimed at promoting “Networking Opportunities To Integrate, Celebrate and Educate on Diversity” across the legal sector. NOTICED was launched in March 2013 with an event at the Law Society and we are looking forward to continuing to play an active role in developing NOTICED over the next year.

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Art Network

This year the London Art Network was set up – a group which exists to provide staff with a shared interest in contemporary art opportunities to engage further with our collection. Launched alongside the House Rules exhibition in the London office, activities of members have since included a ‘working bee’ in the art store, writing art cards, promoting internal and external art events via the firm’s intranet and the network mailing list, and hosting the first of many art tours for staff and friends – enabling staff members to share the collection with a guest.

Arts and Culture

Simmons & Simmons’ contemporary art collection was designed to support young artists early in their careers and to develop a showcase for their work outside of the traditional gallery environment. Our focus in 2012/13 has demonstrated that the firm remains committed to this intention. Today, the firm has a leading collection of over 350 contemporary artworks. With the Bristol office hang in December 2012, the firm now has works displayed in 11 of its 22 international offices, with three further hangs planned for 2013.

This year, the London office has opened its doors for a total of 18 art tours for a variety of clients, charities and community groups. There have also been two temporary exhibitions. The first, House Rules, challenged circumstances which may lead to social exclusion, initiating a dialogue around a key area of focus – social inclusion. The second, A Late Take on Pop, featured both modern and contemporary art which explores the transient and expendable nature of consumerage culture. Many pieces displayed in this exhibition were unearthed during the ‘working bee’, and we are proud to have fewer and fewer works in storage, and more and more on display.

In October 2012, Frieze London (formerly Frieze Art Fair) celebrated its 10th anniversary, and we celebrated our 10th year as sponsor. We have also been delighted to renew our position as associate sponsor of the Donmar Warehouse theatre for three more years.

Our Workplace art tour

Stuart Evans, curator of the Simmons & Simmons art collection hosting the ‘House Rules’ art tour

Pro Bono

British Bangladeshi Power 100 

The British Bangladeshi Power & Inspiration is a celebration of the success of the Bangladeshi community living in the UK today. The List of the 100 most powerful and influential Bangladeshis acknowledges the hard work and efforts of individuals that have helped change society’s perceptions of the community and highlights Bangladeshi role models for future generations. Initiated and edited by Simmons & Simmons associate Ayesha Qureshi MBE in 2012, the List has generated significant publicity, with the 2013 launch event taking place at the House of Commons with Home Secretary Theresa May as chief guest. Adrian Smith, partner, and Lydia Torne, associate, in our London IP Group are advising on IP issues.


Our Workplace

Theresa May, Home Secretary and Ayesha Qureshi, supervising associate at the British Bangladeshi Power 100 launch event


schools out logoSchools OUT

Adrian Dykes, associate, and Adam Waite, trainee, have developed a relationship with the charity Schools OUT (SO), which they introduced to the firm last year and is now a pro-bono client. SO deals with issues of homophobia and the visibility and safety of LGBT people in the education system. The support Adrian and Adam have provided to SO has allowed it to formalise its procedures and move towards being a registered charity, which will ultimately provide tax, income and credibility benefits. In addition, the firm advise on various copyright, data protection and trade mark issues, as well as general corporate matters. The firm’s Charitable Foundation also provided a grant to enable SO to redesign and secure its various websites. Going forward, we will continue to assist SO with its day-to-day legal queries and guide the trustees through the process of converting to a CIO later this year.

“We at Schools OUT have had an amazing year with Simmons & Simmons and we hope - with their help - to achieve charitable status at the end of it. In 2014 we’ll be celebrating our birthday; 40 years of working to make LGBT people safe in education and in society, but we regard ourselves fortunate to have the firm support us and keep us strong and sustainable. Simmons & Simmons’ financial support enabled us to update the Schools OUT UK website so it is on par with our more recent sites LGBT History Month and The Classroom – giving LGBT stakeholders in education a constant, dynamic source of information about what is happening in equalities and education”. Sue Sanders, Co-Chair Schools OUT

 

Our Workplace Schools Out

Sue Sanders, co-chair of Schools OUT hosting a seminar in London during LGBT History Month


Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB)

RNIB logoA leading UK charity, the RNIB offers information, support and advice to almost two million blind and partially sighted people. In the past year, the Corporate team has continued to support the RNIB in a wide range of matters including product liability, insurance and review of IT contracts. Our ICT and IP department have also provided support to the RNIB in relation to ICT and IP related issues. The firm seconded two trainees, Eleanore Di Claudio and Kate Mager, to the RNIB, each for a three month period. Eleanore and Kate assisted with providing general corporate advice and assisting the front line Legal Rights team.

Frankfurter Kunstverein

Frankfurt partner Bernulph von Crailsheim successfully represented Frankfurter Kunstverein, in a pro bono matter in the local administrative court in Frankfurt. The court decision was in favour of Frankfurter Kunstverein and will lead to significant input tax refunds.  The Federal State of Hesse had classified the Frankfurter Kunstverein as a museum within the meaning of the German VAT Act. This classification meant that the Kunstverein Frankfurt is qualified as an institution which is exempt from VAT, but this classification had led to the Kunstverein Frankfurt not being entitled to assert a refund of input tax on all services or supplies rendered to Frankfurter Kunstverein. The local administrative court in Frankfurt accepted Bernulph’s arguments that the Frankfurter Kunstverein cannot be compared to a museum for VAT purposes. A museum is characterised by maintaining a collection of artwork which is constantly presented to visitors. However, the Kunstverein Frankfurt does not maintain a collection, but gathers various artworks from different sources in order to organise short-term exhibitions. These exhibitions are characterised by a particular subject, but not by the source of the artwork from one specific collection.

Frieze

Our Dusseldorf lawyers; Verena Braeckeler, Laura Klare and Daniel Schultheis are engaged in on-going advice for the Germany entity of the Frieze art magazine.

Lawyers Volunteering for the Arts

The firm has recently joined ‘Lawyers Volunteering for the Arts’, a scheme providing legal advice to arts community organisations. A number of lawyers with an interest in art have joined the scheme. To date, we have helped the Poetry Society on a licensing application and Omnibus in its venture to run an arts centre at the old Clapham Library.

Own-It Clinic

Own-It is an advice centre which offers intellectual property advice to creative businesses. Lawyers from our London IP department regularly attend the clinic on a monthly basis at the University of the Arts.

Beijing Zhongze Women’s Legal Counselling and Service Centre

Constanze Döring, lawyer in the Frankfurt office, was involved in a project advising Beijing Zhongze Women’s Legal Counselling and Service Centre in relation to the German part of a multi-jurisdictional report on the legislation and compensation regime of certain sexual offences. Beijing Zhongze Women’s Legal Counselling and Service Centre assists the Centre for Women’s Legal Studies & Legal Services of Beijing University, which specialises in women’s legal aid, research and advocacy in China.


Christian Aid

Anouska Perram, supervising associate, has been advising Christian Aid on two pro bono matters involving land rights in Colombia. These cases involve Indigenous or Afro-Colombian peoples who have been unlawfully dispossessed of their lands as a result of illegal occupation by agribusiness or armed groups. The firm is also providing guidance on the requirement of free, prior and informed consent and application of the Ruggie principles to business activities affecting communities in Colombia. We are building on our expertise in this field following Chris Owen’s work related to land rights for an NGO in Tanzania.